Friday, October 24, 2003
Off to a foreign country
Bon weekend, everyone. See you next Friday. No boxing
matches while I'm away, okay?
Yet another incidental, isolated case
A lot of
comments there two posts below. I have no idea how to
start responding (and I've tried) and so I won't. The blog,
though, must go on.
The Bunkum Post
is at it again: [From an
editorial titled "Is it hubris that defines Thaksin?"]
Mr Thaksin propagates the line that any
criticism of him is unpatriotic, and any dissent to his
views undermines the national interest.
I challenge you, the Bunkum Post, to cite a single
instance of Thaksin's propagating such a "line".
I can, however, point to countless cases in which the Post
manipulated quotes and distorted facts in order to paint a
despotic picture of the PM. The above is one and there are
more in the immediately preceding paragraph:
Mr Thaksin arrested dissidents who picketed
the Burmese embassy last month, praised the Rangoon military
junta for positive steps towards democracy even though it
continues to hold Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest,...
The praise came not from Thaksin, but the
ASEAN as a whole.
How can the Thai PM be singled out and blamed for the
spinelessness of an organization whose willingness to uphold
the "non-interference" principle at any cost long preceded
him? Is Thaksin now so domineering on the ASEAN stage that "L'ASEAN,
c'est Thaksin"? (Ooh, his dictatorship isn't just
domestic, but regional!) And even supposing that,
wouldn't this craven appeasement of the Burmese junta
reflect just the opposite of "hubris", which the Post
accuses Thaksin of?
If you were smarter (and more logical), the Bunkum Post,
you would leave that whole Burma bit out of this "hubris"
piece, wait a few of days and then turn around to attack
Thaksin for being soft on our western neighbor.
Be careful, though, when debating Burma policies. Some
blogger with good memory may point out that the last time
Thaksin took a tough stance against the Burmese, the Post's
beloved Mr. Chuan seemed even more
indignant than the junta itself ("they have honor and
... attempted to ban all protests during the
Aww, not this canard again! But, ah, it's a little different
this time. Thaksin didn't "ban" protests, he merely
"attempted" to do so. What kind of dictator can't even
affect a "protest ban" (which incidentally had already been
lavishly reported by numerous Post stories)? Perhaps
Mr. Chuan's "honor and dignity" folk can teach him a thing
For now, though, there's no ban -- not even an attempted one
-- just an
appeal by Thaksin for people not to protest during that
one APEC week (which the Post itself happens to echo,
albeit with its familiar spin). Does that impinge on free
speech? I don't think so, as people could and did go ahead
with their demonstrations. But if you think it does, do
answer this: Who are all those protests are aimed at?
The editorial doesn't say, but given that the subject matter
is Thaksin's intolerance, it certainly appears as though the
PM wants to gag his critics during his showcase event. That,
however, can't be further from the truth. The protests are
aimed first and foremost at America and its president.
Particularly, the protesters originally planned a big rally
at the World Trade Center, just
across the street from the Grand Hyatt Erawan, where
President Bush was staying. That wouldn't have been a way to
treat a royal guest (Bush was officially invited for an
audience with the King) and, more importantly still, the
gathering would've posed an enormous security risk.
And when all is said and done, demonstrations did take place
-- not at the WTC, but in other places including the
National Police Headquarters -- and with absolute impunity.
I wonder if the Post editors are disappointed. Why
can't Thaksin be a bit more despotic!?
... banned reporters from asking him
questions on politics and NGO protests
Yet another ban! And this time he succeeded! Think about it,
a ban on questions! What is it, a year term for each
question asked? Apparently, you can scream Thaksin is a US
lackey but you can't ask him how he feels.
That's quite strange, to say the least. So let's take a look
at how the PM actually
issued this ban: [Notice how the Post calls
(virtually all anti-US) protesters "democracy
activists". There are many other problems with this story,
but I don't have time for them.]
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has forbidden the media
from asking questions about politics and the entry ban on
foreign NGOs until after the Apec summit.
"Can we agree that from Monday, Oct 13, you will be
forbidden from asking about politics or the NGOs?"
Hmmmm, is that a "ban"? If so, it's a rather uncommon sort.
Why seek agreement from those will be "forbidden" from doing
something? What if the reporters say, "No deal"? Is
something lost in the translation?
find out: [from Matchon]
หากไม่ถูกก็เชิญให้ย้ายที่ แต่อย่าไปสนใจ อย่าให้ความสำคัญ
ถามแต่เรื่องสร้างสรรค์ได้ไหม เรื่องปรับ ครม.ก็ถามวันที่ 23
Aha! While "ห้าม" does normally mean "forbid" or
"forbidden", that interpretation is very much belied by
"นี่เราตกลงกันได้หรือไม่" ("Can we make a deal"). Rather,
the most accurate translation of this remark (according to
meaning instead of letter) would be, "Can we make a deal
that from Monday, October 13, you won't ask [me] about
politics and NGOs". A minor discrepancy perhaps, but it does
make the "ban" talk that so much more far-fetched.
And we haven't even gotten to the context: [translated from
the above citation]
Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin said that Thai demonstrators are asked
to protest at the right place at the right time; if not [at
the right place] then please move; but don't pay attention
to them, don't give them significance, don't give them so
much price [weight]; the price [significance] is Thailand
which the government will today build into a Thailand that
is reputable; don't give significance to these trivial
"Write about other things. I've said a lot today. Why write
about such crazy stuff? To write these things are a waste of
time. Can we make a deal that from Monday, October 13, you
won't ask [me] about politics and NGOs? Can you ask only
constructive things? About the cabinet reshuffle, [you can]
ask on October 23."
Rather irritable there, isn't he? Right before the most
high-profile political gathering Thailand has ever hosted,
the man is clearly under enormous strain and instead of
cutting him some slack the Bunkum Post distorted one
exasperated remark into a "ban", which, according to my
dictionary, means "legal prohibition : official interdict".
Gee, you are really running out of issues, aren't you?
[Continuing with the editorial]
...and accused his critics of harbouring personal jealousies
against him and damaging the national interest through their
criticisms at a time he is playing host to the Apec summit.
I'm not sure where this is coming from and after all we've
been through, I certainly wouldn't take it at face value.
But in the highly unlikely case that every word is true and
precise, BIG DEAL! This prime minister has been called "Hitler
sans mustache" by his critics, and the Bunkum Post
is faulting him for hitting back with
"jealousies" and "damaging national interest"? It truly
baffles me that you're so desperately in lack of ammunition
and yet keep attacking regardless.
Writing all this, I'm flabbergasted. It's all very
incredible -- and highly disturbing.
Let me end this post with a quote from someone who
thinks I'm obsessively attacking the Bangkok Post
in search of publicity:
The old rules still apply - by which I mean, write
unreasonable nonsense and expect a reaction. Not necessarily
from the victim concerned, but from readers, who find such
blatant unfairness objectionable. It offends our basic sense
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Nation TV's interview with President Bush:
เป็นเรื่องปกติ ไปที่ไหนก็มีคนมาประท้วง อย่างไรก็ตาม
[Q:] [When you] go to
Thailand, [you] may face [protests by] NGOs and the
Thai authorities may arrest the protesters
[A:] The Thai society is an admirable society because [it]
lets the Thai people to have the right [freedom] to express
their own opinions. I admit that there are people in the
world who may disagree with America, but the society should
grant citizens right to express agreement and disagreement.
A society that lets citizens express opinions like [those
of?] Thai NGOs, is an admirable society.
But as to the issue of threatening to arrest (NGOs), I
disagree. Pretests are normal and [I] know that there
will be people who will come protest me. That's normal.
Wherever [I] go, there are people protesting.
Nevertheless [I] am confident that the Thai authorities will
be fully capable of providing safety for the Apec leaders.
And here's from the
Q You may admire, Thaksin, the Prime Minister, for being
supportive of the anti-terror campaign. But there are people
in Thailand who are not happy with that, against the war in
Iraq and, again, your policy of preemption. And there are
people who plan to stage a demonstration to demand that
you be arrested during your visit in Bangkok. How do you
respond to these critics?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) Well, I'm -- first of all, a
society which allows for people to express themselves is the
kind of society I admire. I don't expect everybody to agree
with my policies. And I appreciate the fact that they are
able to express themselves. I'm not so sure I agree with
their desire to have me arrested.
Look, some people disagree with my decision to take action
against a thug who had been torturing his own people --
we've discovered mass graves with hundreds of people that
had been buried there, but it's also a man who used chemical
weapons. And the United Nations -- I didn't act alone. The
critics must understand that I was acting in concert with
the U.N., who for 10 years -- which for years had said,
disarm. And, finally, I went to the U.N. and said, wait a
minute, this is time to -- let's take care of this man one
way or the other, and give him a chance to disarm. And he
didn't. So I said -- there ought to be serious consequences
for not disarming and we acted.
I'm going to tell you something, people have got to
understand I'm ont going to forget the lessons of September
the 11th, 2001. These are cold-blooded killers that received
their support from different governments, and this nation
will act to protect our people. And just like I hope the
people of Thailand would expect the Prime Minister to act
to protect the people in Thailand. [emphasis added]
I nominate this for Dateline Bunkum of the Year.
This blog has been enjoying an encouraging amount of regular
visitors recently. Thank you all very much.
It's a pity, however, that not many people... okay, only one
person (good Michael of St. Louis
e) takes advantage of the
Email Tom link
and the comment feature provided below each post.
Make no mistake, this is by no means a desperate attempt to
get mails and comments. No, no, not at all. Who, me? Never!
It's just that I want to hear from you. And quite
Anyway, whether or not you choose to let your voice be
heard, DO pass the word around about this blog. That's a
Thaksin-like order, okay?
Err, in view of the post below, I take the "Thaksin-like"
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
On the eve of APEC, the Bunkum Post, like
Thaksin, urged against staging protests during the summit
week, but not without
taking a swipe at the PM:
Mr Thaksin, probably unwittingly, caused some
to reconsider the decision to leave Apec alone. He
decreed there should be no protests during the week of
the summit. [emphasis added]
Yet another decree? Ah, wouldn't that be swell for the
Bunkum Post? An "All Protesters Behind Bars"
decree would fit so nicely with the "protest ban" stories
that the paper's been trumpeting and ultimately Thaksin's
despotic image that it tries to paint.
Too bad the truth, as usual, gets in the way. Neither
executive nor legislative power has been exercised to
violate the Thai people's constitutional freedom of expression.
(There are moves, however, to keep foreign protesters from
entering the country during the time. What can I say, the world is
problem is that a lot of people, including obviously the Post,
refuse to concede that much.)
Then again, the word "decree" has such an nice dictatorial
ring to it that any smear artist would be foolish to pass
up. So why not, say, use it figuratively
then? After all, the typical Bunkum Post reader
can be counted on to swallow it without inquiring what it
actually describes. (He may even take it literally,
which is so much better as far as the Post is
Thank Heaven my readers aren't so dopey. Here's a look at the
origin of this whole "no protest" thing: [from Matichon,
Oct 3, 2003]
20 ปี ยอมรับว่ามันแพงมากอย่าปล่อยโอกาสนี้ให้สูญไป
"But there are foreign-funded NGOs that have a global
network and that want to stage protests for publicity, like
in the recent WTO meeting. Therefore, the APEC summit is
when a group of NGOs, which are a minority, want to show off
their work. And so I beg the Thai people not to be
used [by the NGOs]," Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin* said.
The reporter asked that, [if] the PM has already made the
appeal, but the NGOs still wouldn't yield, what actions will
[the government] take? Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin said, "If [the
NGOs] want to exercise their rights, then go ahead. But if
[they] do that now, then let it be known of [the status of]
our cooperation from now on. I'm an easy guy. If [we] can
talk and listen to each other, then anything goes. But if
[we] cannot talk and listen to each other, then nothing
goes. If you [the NGOs] just want to exercise your rights
then I have nothing more to say.
When asked when the speculated blacklisting of protesters
will start, the Prime Minister said, there's no
blacklisting, but [I] have good memory. . .
"We have to consider first and foremost [the prestige of ]
the nation [and] unite in being a [good] host because it
[will be] 20 years [before] we can host this meeting
[again]. I admit that it'll cost us dear to waste this
opportunity. I'm not speaking as the Prime Minister, but as
a Thai who wants to beg everybody [for cooperation],"
the Prime Minister said.
[emphasis added and Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin is Prime Minister Thaksin]
What a way to "decree"! Gee, it even involves some violent
Impartial readers, however, would agree with me that the PM's words
can be better described as "appealing for voluntary
during APEC than "decreeing a protest ban".
Sure, he did threaten future non-cooperation with those who
ignore his plea. But is that so bad? Since when is it the
prime minister's duty to cooperate with the unelected,
unregulated NGOs? Indeed if, Heaven forbid, Thaksin ever
got too chummy with those NGOs whose sole purposes are to
hinder trades, obstruct developments, and bring down global
I'd be out on the street protesting him. With rocks
And it looks like the "decree" and the "ban" were
totally ignored. But, oh no, some 3,000 protesters were
"BARRED" from traveling to Bangkok! How so? They told the
buses not to take them? Hmmm, that's "barred"? Maybe, and
who's your source, my dear reporter? The protesters
themselves? Of course, that makes a lot of sense.
Incidentally, the placard behind the skeleton reads "APEC: the group of
vampires sucking the poor's blood". We Thais have
such a gift for figurative language, don't we?
An apple a day keeps the extremists away
post below, you read about Kobsak Chutikul, vice
chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, now meet
Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the
counterpart committee in the Senate, who
opined: [from Matichon]
"The malls are full of products from China.
That's thanks to those affected wretches who're always
eating apples [and] dying their hair blond."
Now didn't I tell you MP Kobsak is relatively enlightened?
Senator Kraisak usually fashions himself as a hippy/NGO
type, but his outburst there does seem more
Ralph Nader. Or does it? Oh well, who can tell the
difference between the hard Left and the extreme Right these
Anyway, as you can probably guess, Kraisak is a fervent
free trade, the
Thai troops in Iraq and, naturally, the
Like I always say, Thaksin has all the right enemies.
Monday, October 20, 2003
Kim Jong-il is a CIA agent, Bush wants to deploy
Vietcong in Iraq and Goh Chok Tong will be in Bush's 2004
cabinet lineup. No, I haven't gone bonkers. Those are
just highlights from an
attempt at humor by the vice chairman of the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs (and former Foreign Ministry
Who would publish that stuff? Well, who else?
And here's the truly scary thing. Kobsak's actually one of the
more enlightened Thais around when it comes to
(The gala dinner's just finished and the Royal Barge
ceremony's coming up!)
Update The ceremony looked just
like in the
ad, except that the barges were traveling in the
opposite direction. Oh, and of course the Peruvians took the
Brits' place in that exclusive audience.
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Seeing is believing
post (three posts below) has been updated to include scanned
images of the faulty advertisement.
So now there's no excuse for you guys not to hunker down and
try to figure out which country's flag is missing. Quick,
there's a prize for the first one to post the right answer
in the comment box.
, please see the